S.S. Keewatin
The idea to bring KEEWATIN back to Canada came from a man who was only just born when the KEEWATIN was retired. Canadian-Israeli businessman, Gil Blutrich, emigrated to Canada in 1998 with the vision of creating a development and hospitality company that truly enhanced its customer’s lifestyle. With perseverance and incredible energy he founded and grew SKYLINE into what is now Ontario’s leading operator and developer of destination communities. In 2013, SKYLINE was named Regional Company of the Year by Hotelier Magazine and received the prestigious Canada’s Best Managed Companies designation from Deloitte and CIBC.

Skyline

In addition to Port McNicoll, Skyline’s current portfolio includes:

slide5Bringing the KEEWATIN home

Gil first heard of the KEEWATIN in 2006 as he negotiated the purchase of land in Port McNicoll, Ontario. The beautiful waterfront property on the southern shores of Georgian Bay (Severn Sound), was the former home port of the CP Railway’s Great Lakes Service from 1912 – 1965. Just a 90-minute drive from Toronto and including 10 kilometres of waterfront property, Skyline created a master plan to develop the 825-acre property. The master plan includes about 1,736 residential units, a 650 slip marina, a hotel and 33,000 sq. m of public and commercial space.

KEEWATIN was still in existence, as it turned out, as a floating museum in Douglas, Michigan. It was owned by RJ Peterson, a visionary in his own right, who had saved the great vessel from becoming scrap in 1967. In 2007, Gil went to Michigan to buy the beloved ship, but RJ Peterson turned him down. He loved the ship and it was his life’s work. Well, as they say, “Time and tides wait for no man” and by 2011 RJ Peterson, well into his 80s, had a change of heart. He appreciated that Gil could give the KEEWATIN another 100 years and he liked that KEEWATIN would return to her historic home. A deal was struck between the two and KEEWATIN was brought back to Port McNicoll on June 23, 2012. A community group, “Friends of Keewatin” operate Keewatin from a park in Port McNicoll and were able to restore and open the ship by May 2013.

Work on the old girl goes on, but she is safe and happy in her historic town on her original dock site.